Old, but gold etc

A question of age

Delighted to be turning 50.
Jack, advertisers no longer want you (except for voice-over work)

While the wider world deals in round numbers, the commercial TV sector prefers to split people up at the half decade.  So you might be aged 25-34, or 45-54.  I remember the sadness when I turned 35 and realised that I was no longer of interest to MTV after falling out of their 16-34 demographic.  I’d been working for them two years earlier and now they no longer even wanted me to watch.  As I’ve indicated somewhere else, I’m not a big fan of targeting like this, but it’s the way of the commercial media world.

Chris Moyles may be feeling the same.

For most channels, the age of the commercial scrapheap is a little later than 34, but from where I’m sitting it still feels unfeasibly young.  Indeed, as will see I’m spending today on something of a demographic cliff-edge.

As the Ad Contrarian has recently pointed out, American advertisers pay a significant premium to reach TV viewers aged 18-49 rather than 25-54, therefore pricing the 18-24 year-olds 78% higher than the 50-54 year-olds even though they earn 60% less.  Which is a little bonkers.

Age can be a sensitive, awkward topic. When I was running the BBC’s Global News international audience team, I thought it was fun to mock the age of the viewers to BBC’s news in the UK by pointing out how many of them died each day while watching the bulletins.  Whereas our international viewers, in the emerging middle classes of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and among bilingual young executives in Europe, was around 30 (and often living in actually dangerous places).

Abi Titmuss: The same age as a typical international consumer of BBC news


Fred Titmus: The same age as a typical viewer to BBC News in the UK

How I laughed.

Tomorrow (September 22nd), I move outside the 18-49 age group for the first time since I was living with my mum and dad.  Apparently I am one day older than the Ford Cortina.  It’s mildly depressing – not the fact of being this age, but being nearer to what is to come – the tendency to round UP towards death, rather than DOWN, towards youth.   The emerging imbalance between what lies behind me and what lies ahead.

I’m not going to pretend that I am as exciting to TV advertisers as I was some years ago.  The key brands in my life are Lidl, Ibuprofen, Cannondale, whoever makes those delicious Gold biscuits, and the daytime quiz Pointless.

I’m not the catch I once was.

Then again, one recent award-winning piece of research by the BBC found that people don’t think of themselves as the age that they actually are.  It’s no good pitching me by reference to my actual age, when I feel myself to be 40.  And after looking at all the evidence of an ageing population the researchers decided that:

This all means we simply have to understand more about how today’s older adults think, feel, are motivated and are likely to respond to organisations and brands. It also means we need to understand how younger adults, a dwindling population, see themselves — because precise and effective marketing to them will be more important than ever. (Lisa Edgar and David Bunker:  It’s All in the Mind: Changing the way we think about age)

Very good research, but with all due respect, perhaps the younger viewers can look after themselves for a change.

One estimate is that only 5% of advertising is aimed at the elderly.  The research found that those people who felt themselves to be younger than they really were had quite different viewing than the ones who were comfortable with their age – so a younger at heart 50 year old liked such shows as Home and Away, Shameless, Jonathan Ross, Alan Carr, Father Ted, The Gadget Show, and Celebrity Coach Trip, while the older ones enjoyed One Foot in the Grave, Living with the Amish, Grand Designs, and River Cottage.

And while some TV schedulers are desperately trying to appeal to fickle younger viewers, smarter ones are creating New Tricks, The One Show, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, and getting monster ratings as a result.

Would it interest you to know that the post on this blog that has had the fewest visitors was the one about older TV viewers.  I wonder why.  When I contacted Age Concern to talk about what research they had about television and the old, they charmingly replied that television was ‘rather more ubiquitous than an elephant in the room, but, by the look of our research library, equally ignored’.  (They didn’t really have any, even though for the very old, the television is a lifeline).  Well, pace the research cited above, perhaps the feeling across commercial TV is mutual.

Anyway, with all this grey talk I sense I’m losing you, so I’ll shut up.

Next week: TV for young people

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